On March 27th, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state moratorium on evictions for tenants who are unable to pay their rent for reasons related to COVID-19. And then on April 6, the California Judicial Council took matters a step further and enacted 11 Emergency Rules of the California Rules of Court to keep people in their homes while they are forced to shelter in place.
This action on part of the California Judicial Council cleared up many of the questions around Newsom’s original order, but there is still a lot of confusion regarding housing issues and evictions in the State of California overall. Below you will find a few commonly asked questions and answers along with vital community resources where you can learn more.
For information on how to renegotiate commercial rent, click here.
Sierra Community House
Legal Services of Northern California
*Thank you to Legal Services of Northern California for this free resource guide, which was used as a major source in compiling much of the information below.
Check out their very helpful video here.
I lost my income due to coronavirus related closures and can’t pay rent. Will these new rules keep me from being evicted?
The new state rulings mean that, as of April 6, 2020, evictions in the state of California are put on pause (except for those relating to public health concerns). If renter can’t pay [a]rent because of coronavirus, they won’t be evicted from their home until 90 days after the Governor lifts the emergency declaration. However, they will still have to pay their landlord back eventually for their missed rent. Later this year, likely this summer, they will have to back pay the rent they missed and after that time, they can be evicted. The silver lining here is that renters can use this time to collect unemployment and other federal and state financial support as it becomes available and work towards financial stability.
Important: Landlords can still give renters eviction notices and file eviction court cases during the COVID-19 pandemic, and when the pandemic is over, renters can be evicted based on these notices.
If a renter gets a notice from their landlord or eviction papers, they should seek legal advice from organizations like Sierra Community House or Legal Services of Northern California.
How do I know if I qualify for these new rules?
The laws are meant to protect renters who cannot pay rent because they have lost income for one of the following reasons:
1. The tenant is sick with COVID-19 or has to care for a member of the household who has COVID-19
2. The tenant experienced a lay-off, loss of hours, or other income reduction due to COVID-19
3. The tenant complied with a recommendation from a government agency to stay at home, self-quarantine, or avoid congregating with others
4. The tenant had to miss work to care for a home-bound school-age child
If renters have questions about if they qualify or not, contact an organization like Sierra Community House or Legal Services of Northern California.
The April 6th Judicial Council decision effectively put a hold on all evictions except for those The only exceptions are those that would cause public health concerns.
If I have lost my income but still can pay rent, should I pay it now or wait for further subsidies from the government?
Pay it now. This law doesn’t forgive payment, it just allows for it to be delayed. Renters should pay it sooner rather than later to avoid paying more than one month at a time.
Renters will be responsible for paying all of the unpaid rent after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
I can’t pay next month but haven’t told my landlord. What should I do?
Those who can’t pay rent must notify their landlords in writing before rent is due, or no later than seven days after rent is due. If renters fail to notify landlords in writing, they may not be protected by these laws down the line. If they were not able to tell their landlord before rent was due, they must tell them as soon as they can. Renters should explain why they cannot pay rent due to COVID-19 and keep all documents that support why they can’t pay, according to NRP’s conversation with Sarah Steinheimer, an attorney at Legal Service of Northern California. These might include: job termination notices, paychecks, pay stubs, bank statements, medical bills, or letters from employers explaining why the renter lost income.
My city’s laws are different than these new state rules. Which ones should I adhere to?
Some cities and counties have passed local laws that temporarily stop landlords from evicting tenants who cannot pay rent because they lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Renters must live within the city or area that the law applies to in order to be protected by these laws, which will likely give tenants even more protection than the new state rules.
My landlord has threatened eviction because I couldn’t pay. What does that mean with this new law?
Landlords can still file eviction cases, but the courts have been delayed and the case will not proceed until at least 90 days after the end of the state of emergency. That means that come later this summer, renters who missed payments may be looking for a new place to live if they can’t make them up. During the immediate crisis, however, all court summons, judgments, and lockout orders will be on hold, giving you time to hopefully stabilize your finances.
Is there a limit to how much a landlord can raise rent during the pandemic?
Yes, California law prohibits landlords from raising rent more than 10% during a state of emergency.
Will my utilities shut off if I cannot pay?
Water companies cannot shut off water service during the COVID-19 emergency declaration. SMUD will not disconnect services for nonpayment through May 31. PG&E has also announced that it will temporarily suspend shutoffs for nonpayment.
What other information should tenants know about these emergency rules?
While evictions and foreclosures are put on hold at least through the summer, these rules do not establish any new tenant rights or defenses to an eviction, address requirements for notifying landlords or providing documentation when tenants are unable to pay rent due to loss of income or other COVID-19 related reasons or address how repayment will be handled. Because the Judicial Courts do not have the ability or authority to make decisions on these matters, it is expected that the Legislature will address these issues with urgency when it returns in May.